Review: THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW at Theatre Harrisburg

Kick off spooky season right with Theatre Harrisburg's Sleepy Hollow.

By: Sep. 10, 2022
Review: THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW at Theatre Harrisburg

First published in 1819, Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow tells the tale of a mysterious and haunting, or perhaps haunted, town called Sleepy Hollow and its residents, who are said to be visited by strange sights, music, and voices. The eerie occurrences in the town are heightened by the people's fascination with spooky stories, including that of the Headless Horseman-the ghost of a Hessian soldier who lost his head during the war. What better way to kick off autumn than with an adaptation of this spooky story that has captured the imagination for decades. Theatre Harrisburg invites audiences to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow adapted by local playwright David Ramón Zayas and directed by Jeff Luttermoser September 9-18.

In The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod Crane, a schoolmaster and music teacher, moves to Sleepy Hollow and falls in love with Katrina Van Tassel. As he becomes more and more entwined in the lives of the residents of Sleepy Hollow, he learns of the many ghost stories that circulate in the small town. This adaptation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow explores these stories and the ways in which, as director Luttermoser comments, "ghosts come in many forms: our beliefs and superstitions, our memories of those we loved and lost, and the tales we pass down within our families and communities."

This performance takes place in the round so that the audience truly feels like they are part of the story. The set, props, lighting, sound, and costume design transport the audience to Sleepy Hollow and work together beautifully to create an atmosphere that appeals to the imagination and heightens the emotions. Narrator Mike Greenwald's smooth, full voice envelopes the audience and draws them in.

The townspeople include Mrs. Van Ripper, Widow Knickerbocker, Diedrich Knickerbocker, Mrs. Van Tassel, Baltus Van Tassel, Katrina Van Tassel, and Abraham "Brom Bones" Van Brunt. Douglas Wann is fantastic as the young Diedrich Knickerbocker. He plays the role of the precocious student with an air of maturity, and his mannerisms and smile make his character an audience favorite. Amber Mann, who takes on the role of Widow Knickerbocker, Diedrich's mother, is perfectly cast. Mann is an accomplished story-teller, giving the audience chills as she tells the story of the woman in white. Additionally, Mann's ability to portray complex emotions causes the audience to feel precisely what Widow Knickerbocker is feeling as she fears for her son. Mrs. Van Ripper is a plain-spoken woman, and Gerren Wagner plays the part with a quirky, moody, and ornery attitude that sets her apart from the other townsfolk. When Wagner tells the story of her husband, the audience completely believes that his spirit is trapped by the Major's tree.

The Van Tassel family brings a lightheartedness to the town, with Baltus's famous sense of humor, Katrina's beauty and good nature, and Mrs. Van Tassel's hospitality. Jeff Wasileski (as Baltus Van Tassel), Lisa Leone Dickerson (as Mrs. Van Tassel), and Laila Keadan (as Katrina Van Tassel) interact beautifully, weaving together an image of a loving family. One of the most engaging scenes in the show is the harvest party that the Van Tassel's host. Wasileski and Dickerson are highly skilled at bringing the audience into the action, breaking through the fourth wall to treat the audience as guests at their party. Keadan's lovely voice is highlighted with a solo performance during the party. The complex relationships between Katrina Van Tassel, Abraham Van Brunt, and Ichabod Crane create an uncomfortable undercurrent of jealousy and love beneath the gaiety of the party, coming to a head when Crane expresses his love for Katrina. Brennen Dickerson has wonderful stage presence, performing Van Brunt as a confident young man with swagger and strength. He is a fantastic counterpart to the reserved, respectful, intellectual Ichabod played beautifully by Trystin Bailey.

Julia Toyer, Tessa Eberlein, and Francesca Amendolia appear throughout the show as the three Witte Wieven-spirits that frequent Sleepy Hollow. Toyer, Eberlein, and Amendolia use their voices and movements to create a delightfully haunting atmosphere. One of the most mesmerizing aspects of the performance is watching them act out each of the stories told by the townsfolk. Without saying a word during these reenactments, they capture the audience's imaginations.

There are many more elements of this production that could be praised, but that would be giving away too much. If you love the spooky season and tales of ghosts, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow at Theatre Harrisburg is a show you will not want to miss. Visit for tickets to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

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